"At every town-hall meeting I hear, 'Can't we separate from Chicago?'" says Mr. Mitchell.
Chicago pols control almost all seats of power in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White are all Democrats from Chicago. So was former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who this month was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, including trying to sell President Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. Consequently, as Mr. Wooters says, a lot "of the money that we have down here goes up there to bail out Chicago."
The state's bond debt has soared to $30 billion from $9.2 billion in 2002, when Democrats seized control of both the governorship and statehouse. Lawmakers have borrowed $10 billion just to fund the state's pension system, which is running a $210 billion unfunded liability. In fact, all of the $7 billion raised by this year's income and corporate tax hikes is going toward funding pensions.
Meanwhile, Republicans, who occupy about 40% of legislative seats, aren't exactly holding the Democrats' feet to the fire. As Speaker Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown told me, "95% of things that get done in Illinois are a result of compromise." "Republicans who held power in the 1980s and '90s were not ideological. They supported tax increases," says John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. More recently, most Republicans supported the Democrats' crony-capitalist tax credits for Chicago businesses, rather than insisting that the legislature roll back the corporate and income tax hikes. AND WHY COMPROMISE ON THE CANCER OF EXCESS SPENDING CAN'T BE COMPROMISED.
But is booting Chicago from the state a feasible answer? A few years ago it seemed unlikely that Republicans could seize control of legislatures and governorships in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, all heavily unionized states. But it's happened in all three. That's the difference that budgetary chaos, a strong party organization and the right message can make.